Men’s ice hockey rebounds from Norwich loss with 2-1 victory

Men’s ice hockey (12-6-2, 10-3-2 in the NESCAC) garnered a close 2-1 win over St. Michael’s College (7-11-2) Saturday after suffering a decisive 0-4 loss to Norwich (11-6-3) the day before. Despite injuries, the Ephs pulled through and ended a two-game losing streak, placing them third in the NESCAC conference behind Amherst and Middlebury.

Both teams had high stakes going into Saturday’s game: the Ephs arrived in Burlington hoping to reverse their fortunes and regain momentum in the last of their three away games, and the Purple Knights sought to turn the tide after an embarrassing 12-2 defeat at the hands of the Panthers the day before.

The first period saw very aggressive plays, with both teams committing a total of seven hooking or interference penalties in the first period. The Ephs dominated the offensive game, making 13 shots on goal compared to nine from the Purple Knights, but were unable to take advantage of their power plays to rein in an early goal. Both teams successfully killed off all seven penalties, ending the first period with a score of 0-0.

The Ephs resumed their aggressive strategy in the second period, making 14 attempts on goal. Matt Masucci ’11, assisted by Matt Draheim ’09 and Connor Olvany ’11, finally scored the first goal of the game 6:07 into the second period. However, the Purple Knights responded with a goal of their own at 11:42, ending the period tied at 1-1.

In the last period, an early penalty in the fourth minute gave the Ephs the opening they needed to seal the game. The team took advantage of the power play opportunity, and Justin Trioani ’12, assisted by Ryan Scott ’12 and Draheim, flicked the puck into the net, scoring the Ephs’ second goal within a minute of the power play. St. Michael’s attempted to stay in the game, but Williams outplayed the team both offensively and defensively. The Ephs kept the Purple Knights to a minimal four shots on goal while taking 17 shots themselves and ended up claiming the game with a score of 2-1.

“We played a good St. Mike’s team,” Head Coach Bill Kangas said. “We had to find a way to win. In a lot of ways, it was better that we won 2-1, rather than a bigger score, because I think we have to grind out games. The goalie played well, he made some big saves. Winning a tight game like that helps us prepare for the playoffs a couple of weeks away.”

The men’s win was an exciting rebound from the night before, when the team played the Cadets, the top team in the ECAC. The two teams exchanged penalties early in the first period, but the Cadets capitalized on their power play opportunity and scored the first goal at 8:52. The Ephs had several close attempts at goal, but the Cadets outshot the Ephs 11-2, ending the first period with a score of 1-0.

It was the second period that gave the Cadets an insurmountable lead. Although both teams made almost the same number of goal attempts, Norwich was able to make 2-for-9 on goal compared to Williams’ 0-for-8. Near the end of the period, the Cadets scored twice at 16:32 and 17:25, pushing the score to 3-0.

In the third period, the Cadets continued to dominate the shooting scene, taking 11 shots on goal compared to five from the Ephs. At 13:43, Norwich scored an unassisted goal. With less than seven minutes left in the period, the Ephs were unable to overcome their deficit, and the game ended with a final score of 4-0.

Despite splitting the weekend, men’s ice hockey continues to have a solid season, having won all the games in their four-game home stretch a week ago. The team beat New England 4-2 on Jan. 23 and St. Anselm 2-1 on Jan. 24. In the subsequent week, the men defeated Trinity 3-2 on Jan. 30 and shut out Wesleyan 6-0 on Jan. 31. Losing Andrew Lepore ’10 and captain Alex Smigelski ’10 to injuries in their game against Trinity, the Ephs fell 6-1 to Plattsburgh on Feb. 2.

Kangas also spoke to the need for the team to step up in the face of challenges like injury.

“The kids have learned to pull for each other; that’s what a tight team can do. It’s hard to break a strong team. Some of the players have been able to step up on the power play, in penalty-killing situations, and five-on-five.That’s part of being on the team,” Kangas said.  

The team will compete in its final two home games of the regular season this weekend, playing UMass-Boston (7-12-2) on Friday and Babson (9-10-1) on Saturday. UMass-Boston has lost three straight and 10 of their last 12 games, while Babson has won three of their last four. The team will finish out NECAC play next weekend, with games at Hamilton and Amherst.